What Is Aerobic Weight Training?

Summer Banks

Aerobic weight training is a type of exercise that combines lifting weights with interval training and intensity drills in order to elevate heart rate and blood pressure. It’s different from standard weight training in large part because of its focus on speed. The goal is often a little bit different, too; rather than simply building muscle, the aim with a specifically aerobic routine is usually to improve cardiovascular function and to strengthen not just the muscles but heart itself, and through the heart the whole body. Most of the exercises in an aerobic plan use lighter weights and repetition, and whole body movements are often part of the recommended routines. Circuit training is one of the most common forms of this kind of exercise, and interval training and speed work are widely used, too. Practitioners and health experts often praise aerobic weight routines as some of the best for overall heart health, and these routines are often used by athletes as a form of cross-training. Like most things, though, this sort of exercise is not without its risks, and people are often wise to talk to a health professional before undertaking a regimen, particularly if they have other health concerns already.

Push-ups can be incorporated into an aerobic weight training program.
Push-ups can be incorporated into an aerobic weight training program.

Understanding Aerobic Exercise Generally

In general, aerobic exercise is any exercise that involves or relies primarily on the body’s aerobic metabolism, which is a form of oxygen processing for energy. Most of these sorts of exercises involve endurance and intervals or short bursts of high-intensity work with longer periods of more moderate movement. The main idea is to build up heart strength to enable to body to work for longer and longer periods of time.

Aerobic weight training involves lifting lighter weights at higher speeds.
Aerobic weight training involves lifting lighter weights at higher speeds.

Weight routines usually involve weights that can be lifted fairly easily. They’re used in a range of different ways that are designed to challenge strength and build tolerance over many repetitions.

Aerobic weight training burns a high percentage of fat.
Aerobic weight training burns a high percentage of fat.

Classic weight lifting exercises, by contrast, usually involve heavy weights and short times spent lifting. Each time a lifting session is complete, it is often referred to as a set. Rest periods of one to two minutes between sets are common. In most cases, these breaks negate the effect of aerobic or circuit programs. It certainly has its benefits, but these benefits aren’t usually aerobic in nature.

Aerobic weight training is recommended to aid in weight loss.
Aerobic weight training is recommended to aid in weight loss.

Circuit Training

Circuit training may be the most popular form of aerobic weight training. These sorts programs are created to use several machines, or stations, and lighter weights. Users move from one station to the next, lifting weights repeatedly for a given length of time.

Aerobic weight training can help eliminate back fat.
Aerobic weight training can help eliminate back fat.

Intervals and Intensity Variations

A number of clinical studies have found that brief periods of intense exercise, followed by rest periods, may have equal or better cardiovascular benefits for the body; these studies are one of the most cited supports for aerobic training of any kind, especially involving weights. Weight training done in intensity intervals builds endurance and can also help strengthen the bones. This is important for people at virtually any fitness level, but is often particularly recommended for those who are trying to lose weight or those who are losing bone mass, usually on account of aging.

Experts suggest using aerobic weight training two to three times a week as part of a cardiovascular and weight lifting regime. If weight loss is the sole reason for working out, this routine can be performed at home or in a gym. As long as resistance exercises like squats, push-ups, or sit-ups are repeated for intervals of a bit four minutes apiece, effects are typically the same as gym-based circuit-training sets.

Benefits and Potential Risks

The benefits from this sort of routine can be profound, and often include overall tone in many different parts of the body. Part of this is because of the different muscles and systems that are used simultaneously. People often find that they can breathe easier and feel less exhausted by everyday tasks after participating in this sort of exercise for a sustained period of time. In most cases, though, a sustained time is required; people don’t usually see a difference right away. It can takes weeks if not months to get results, and keeping the change usually requires commitment.

There are also risks, as there are with nearly any exercise regimen. People need to eat well and consume enough calories to power their efforts, and also must be aware of their own limits. Though the weights used aren’t usually very heavy, it’s still possible to overdo it, which can risk strain, sprain, and other injury. In general it’s usually a good for anyone thinking of taking a weight routine up to talk with a healthcare provider fist to discuss personalized risks.

Sit-ups might be part of a person's aerobic weight training program.
Sit-ups might be part of a person's aerobic weight training program.

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Discussion Comments


This is contradictory, since you argue that rests between sets of resistance training negate the aerobic effect and then you argue for interval training - short bursts of activity interspersed with rest periods. Logically, if rests negate aerobic effect in the first instance, it would do so in the second; equally, if interval training works, then weights could provide the load for an interval training protocol, especially if the rest period is not quite long enough for full recovery.

A good, non-circuit, example would be repeated short intervals of kettlebell swings. I have done workouts of 200 swings, in short sets of 10 (5L/5R) and a minute's rest between each set and I got my HR above 150 bpm on every occasion, and because I am disabled the rest periods were seated and not active rest. While this may not be the most efficient way of getting aerobic exercise, it is a viable option if other options, such as outdoor activity, are not possible due to poor weather, etc.


@Iluviaporos - Another way people might do this is by finding a park with exercise fitness training stations around the edges. I've seen them in quite a few places. It's usually pretty simple and they will have a little sign nearby explaining how to do each exercise.

The idea is that you run around the park and stop at each place to do pull-ups or whatever. No gym pass required.


I don't think you absolutely have to have a gym for this. I haven't really thought about it as circuit training before, but I basically do this with resistance exercises at home after I go for a run.

It's probably not quite as fast paced as it might be at a gym (particularly when you know someone else is waiting for the equipment!) but it works basically the same. I adapted it from a book I found on strength training for women.

Basically it's a whole bunch of different calisthenic exercises and stretches that takes about 20 minutes and which I can do either by myself or with a wall, or at most a towel.


@anon330376 - I do think that aerobic weight training is good if you've only got a very short period of time to exercise, since it ticks all the boxes. But if you've got enough time to fit in a 20 minute aerobic session (like running) that will still have benefits that you probably won't get from the circuit training.

The problem with the circuit training is that it doesn't encourage sustained effort at all and, while you definitely get a lot from other kinds of training, a sustained 20-30 minutes of cardio provides benefits that aerobic weight lifting just can't give.

Mixing it up is a good thing when it comes to training.


This is a really good read. I will definitely be switching from aerobic training to weight training. Thanks for the information.

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